Adopting a senior pet can be the best way to rescue a pet of them all!You may be considering pet adoption, and getting excited about the prospect of adding a new furry family member to your household. If you’re ready to adopt, why limit your choices to a puppy or a kitten? Consider opening your heart and home to a senior pet instead.

What, exactly is a senior pet? Once considered to be pets over 7 years of age, a senior pet –  according to the American Animal Hospital Association – is one in the last 25% of their life expectancy for the species and breed.

Senior pets need homes as much as their younger counterparts. Too often, senior pets live out their days in shelters or are euthanized because of their age. Many were once the faithful companions of people who moved to assisted living, nursing homes, or have died.

There are wonderful reasons why adopting a senior pet can be a life changing experience for the better, but senior pets also pose their own challenges – though not the ones you might think. Clairmont Animal Hospital explores what to consider when adopting a senior pet.

Reasons to Adopt a Senior Pet

Among the many reasons that adopting a senior pet might be the right choice: you’ll likely be saving a life. Senior pets have a harder time getting adopted than younger animals; since shelters are overcrowded, pets over the age of 5 are among the first to be euthanized if they aren’t adopted in a timely manner. Adopting a senior pet can literally equal a life saved.

Older pets are not necessarily “problem” pets – senior pets lose their homes for a variety of reasons, usually having nothing to do with behavior or temperament, and more to do with circumstance: the novelty of a pet wearing off, allergies, or loss of a job – for example. These pets make wonderful, loving companions, and need homes just as badly as younger pets.

Older pets likely have some training – the majority of older pets have some knowledge of basic commands, such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come”. Most are also housebroken, saving you the time and energy required for training young animals.

You can teach an old dog new tricks – dogs (and cats!) love to learn, and relish the chance to learn something new. Additionally, older pets have a longer attention span than a puppy or kitten, making them easier to train.

Older pets are calmer and less energetic than younger pets – an adult pet is no longer in the puppy or kitten stage and has a formed personality and temperament. This gives you a great idea of how they will fit into your household. Adult dogs have already lost their puppy teeth, and adult cats will be calmer than kittens, both of which will result in less destruction to your home. Many of them are calmer and may acclimate better to children if they have lived with them in their previous home.

Older pets make instant companions – senior pets (unlike most puppies and kittens) have all their vaccinations, and are ready to accompany you to the park or on a walk, or to be your snuggle buddy during those late-night Netflix binges. You won’t have to dedicate additional time to leash training with a senior pet, and can begin enjoying your relationship together right away.

Proceed With Awareness, Not Caution

Of course, senior pets are not without some special requirements, and it’s only prudent to be aware of the commitment you’re making to a senior pet if you adopt one. Here are a few things to consider:

Senior pets need extra veterinary care – this should not come as a surprise – all pets do! Senior pets should be seen ideally 2 to 3 times per year, instead of once – depending on their species and breed. Early detection of disease can be important to more effective treatment and better outcomes for pets.

Age is a risk factor for certain diseases – although age is not a disease, some conditions do come more often as pets get older. These include chronic kidney disease, dental disease, joint pain, mobility issues, and decreased vision and hearing. Adopting a senior pet means that you are ready to address these issues and provide a senior pet with the care they need and deserve.

Senior pets may have shorter lives – the biggest reason that senior pets are hard to adopt is the mentality of “why would I give my heart to a pet that will die in a year or two?” Pets get into our hearts quickly, and adopting an older pet can mean your relationship might be short lived.

But, remember that there are no guarantees as to how long a pet of any age will live. Don’t let the worry of heartbreak make you hesitate to adopt a senior pet. While the awareness of the commitment you’ll be making is of course important, senior pets can make loyal and loving companions, and you’ll be giving a deserving pet a wonderful forever home.

If you have any questions about senior pet care or adopting, please give our team a call.